Other Promising Supplements

You’ve just read about the supplements we recommend or think you should consider based on a significant body of research. But evidence is also mounting in favor of other supplements that may prove to help iower cholesterol. While the evidence isn’t strong enough yet for us to recommend taking them regularly, here are eight to keep an eye on. One among them—calcium—is a mineral just about everyone should be taking anyway to protect their bones. That evidence is clear!

Dried artichoke extract. Artichokes contain plant chemicals that appear to decrease the amount of cholesterol the liver makes and also help convert cholesterol into less dangerous bile acids. In one German study published in 2000, researchers gave 143 people with high cholesterol either 450-muilligrarn tablets of dried artichoke extract or a placebo for six weeks. Those taking the supplement saw their LDL levels drop an average of 22.9 percent, compared to a 6.3 percent drop for the control group.

Blue-green algae. Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are among the most primitive life forms on Earth. Africans and Native Americans used to store dried algae for yearround use and trade. It is a nutrient-dense food, chock full of valuable amino acids and minerals, including zinc, selenium, and magnesium. It’s also rich in antioxidants as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most of the research demonstrating its ability to lower cholesterol has been conducted in animals.

Calcium. As little as 1,000 milligrams of calcium citrate taken daily could lower your LDL level and increase your HDL level … at least that’s what Australian researchers learned during a study that had absolutely nothing to do with cholesterol. The study was designed to assess the effects of calcium on the incidence of bone fractures. A group of 223 women received either calcium citrate or a placebo for one year. Those receiving the calcium saw their cholesterol ratio improve more than those in the placebo group, The main reason for the ratio improvement? An average increase in HDL levels of 7 percent, Then, of course, there is calciurns benefit to your bones, andit also helps regulate blood pressure. So if you’re worried about either your bones or your blood pressure (as most people should be) in addition to your cholesterol, you should be taking a calcium supplement. (Most multivitamins don’t contain as much as you need.) Postmenopausal women and men over 65 need 1,500 milligrams; everyone else needs 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams. It’s best to take it in divided doses twice a day.

Fenugreek. This Indian herb is often used to help nursing mothers produce more breast milk (as well as to flavor curries). According to several studies it may also be effective in lowering cholesterol In one small study of 20 people, participants dropped their LDL cholestero! an average of 21 percent by mixing 18 grams of fenugreek powder into their food every day

Licorice. An ingredient in licorice called glabridin delays LDL oxidation, a main contributing factor to plaque buildup. This may be one reason for low rates of atherosclerosis in Asian countries like Mongolia and Vietnam, where people commonly chew licorice. Chewing licorice releases enzymes that break down the glabridin, enabling the body to absorb it. In one Israeli study, after 20 medical students took 100 milligrams of licorice extract tablets daily for two weeks, the LDL in their blood was 80 percent more resistant to oxidation than that of a control group. Don’t try to get your glabridin from licorice whips, however. It’s found in the parts of the root thrown away after the candy is made, Instead, look for extracts, capsules, or wafers labeled DGL, or deglycyrrhizinated. This means the product has been stripped of a compound in licorice that raises blood pressure.

Plant phytosterols. You may remember reading in this Chapter  about cholesterollowering margarines that contain plant-based sterols (phytosterols). Sterols are so similar in chemical structure to cholesterol that. they occupy the receptors for cholesterol in the intestine, blocking the absorption by the body of the cholesterol you eat. If you’re not interested in sterol-based margarine spreads, you might consider taking phytosterol supplements, available as powders, capsules, or oils. Brands include Basikol, Kholesterol Blocker, Cholesterol Success, Cholestain, and Phytosterol Complex. Keep in mind, however, that as with sterol spreads, you should consider these medication and follow the dosage instructions carefully. In one small pilot study conducted by Mary McGowan, M.D., medical director of the Cholesterol Management Center at the New England Heart Institute, five patients (two of whom were also taking a statin drug) took 800 milligrams of Basikol twice daily with a meal. Total cholesterol fell an average of 13.2 percent, with a range of 6 to 24 percent, while LDL fell an average of 20 percent, with a range of 10,5 lo 32 percent.

Policosanol. The latest cholesterol-lowering substance to hit the medical journals is a mixture of alcohols, purified either from sugar cane or beeswax. A group of Cuban researchers has published the bulk of the studies on policosanol, finding that at doses of 10 to 20 milligrams per day, policosanal lowers total cholesterol 17 to 21 percent and LDL 21 to 29 percent, while raising HDL 8 to 15 percent. In studies daily doses. of ordy 10 milligrams a day were as effective in lowering total cholesterol or LDL as the sarne dose of Zocor (simvastatin) or Pravachol (pravastatin). The supplement appears safe, given evidence from people who have used it for more than three years.

Pycnogenol. This substance, found in pine bark, works as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals and thus preventing the oxidation of LDL. In one study 40 patients with chronic venous insufficiency (a condition that leads to swelling of the legs) were treated daily with either 600 milligrams of horse chestnut extract or 360 milligrams of pycnogenol for four weeks. The pycnogenol significantly decreased total cholesterol and LDL blood levels without affecting HDL levels.

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